Weeknotes: 106

Work

The cat is out of the bag, and GOV.UK Accounts, the project I have been working on since the beginning of June, has been announced. So now I’ll feel more comfortable talking about OAuth and OpenID Connect with people, without needing to worry about whether I’m letting enough information slip for them to put two and two together.

There’s been a lot of talk, both internal and now external, about “personalisation”—using the data a user provides to do things like recommend services, or highlight bits of content, or otherwise change how GOV.UK behaves for them—but personally I think that even if all we achieve is just having one single account for government web services, that would be enough of a game-changer. Right now the big one is Government Gateway (run by HMRC), but also Companies House, DfE, and a few other departments have their own systems; if we can get those all using GOV.UK Accounts (particularly if we make it possible to log into your GOV.UK account with your Government Gateway account and vice versa) some users would no longer need to remember several sets of credentials.

Books

This week I read:

  • House of Chains by Steven Erikson, the fourth of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

    Another great entry in the series, introducing yet more characters, locations, and backstory. It’s cool to see how the events of one book end up referenced or portrayed in another book, given that we see things through so many points of view. I know there are still many books to go, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how the series ends, as every book is just adding more and more detail to the story of the Crippled God.

Network rebuild

This week I’ve been putting together all my new network hardware. It’s not been a completely smooth process—one of the sockets in my power distribution unit is dead so I need to replace it, and Amazon sent me the wrong cables for the hot-swap bays in my new server case—but it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve even had a pleasant surprise in that the network cabinet I got is more spacious than I expected, so 1U of space I planned to use for cable management is actually free, giving me more room for future expansion.

I’ve been chronicling my build, with photos, on Twitter.


On the software side, I’ve been playing with a few new things:

I’ve set up the new root SSD for the server in the “erase your darlings” style, so / gets wiped on boot, with separate volumes for /boot, /nix, and /persist. Getting this working was fun, and has already saved me a few times: I did sudo mv /etc/shadow once, which locked me out of future sudo usage, but I was able to just regenerate the file by rebooting. Though I wouldn’t have been messing with that file if I hadn’t been trying to move it to my /persist volume, so…

Screenshot of the Prometheus / Grafana monitoring dashboard

I decided to set up Prometheus for monitoring, and even ended up writing my own speedtest.net monitoring plugin. I’m undecided on whether I really need to run a speedtest every 5 minutes, but for now it’s neat.

Screenshot of the start page

I also revamped my start page, after finding /r/startpages and feeling that my old one was a bit inadequate. The data is from the OpenWeather “current weather” API and GOV.UK’s “when do the clocks change” and bank holiday feeds.


Hopefully the final bits of the hardware will arrive soon, though the projected delivery date for the cables I need to hook up my HDDs is currently November… I should at least have the network cabinet assembled soon.